Australia: New law implements penalty system for payment for visas

A new law implements a criminal and civil penalty regime that makes it illegal to ask for, receive, offer or provide payment or other benefits to a sponsor in return for a range of 'sponsorship-related events.'  The new regime applies to temporary sponsored work visas and skilled permanent employer-sponsored visas, including the subclass 457 visa, Employer Nomination Scheme subclass 186 visa and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme subclass 187 visa.

This legislation is a response to recommendations of the subclass 457 independent review panel held in 2014, and is likely to come into effect by May 30, 2016.

Sponsorship-Related Events

A 'sponsorship-related event' includes any of the following:

  • Applying for approval as a sponsor or for a variation of a term of sponsorship;
  • Becoming (or not ceasing to be) a party to a work agreement;
  • Agreeing to be an approved sponsor for an applicant;
  • Nominating a person for a sponsored visa, or not withdrawing a nomination; and
  • Employing a person to work in a position or undertake an activity for which a sponsored visa will be or has been applied for or granted.

Related Penalties

Maximum penalties for breaches of the new law include:

  • two years imprisonment;
  • a criminal penalty of AUD 64,800 per offence for an individual or AUD 324,000 per offence for a corporation; and
  • A civil penalty of AUD 43,200 per offence for an individual or AUD 216,000 per offence for a corporation.

Executive officers (directors, chief executive officers, chief financial officers and company secretaries) may also be liable in particular circumstances where a corporation commits an offense under the regime.

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals

Employers should be aware of the new law and the severe consequences of breaches.